olive oil, rosemary and citrus cake

tableIf any of you are following me on Instagram, you’d know that I’m experiencing a woody herb obsession. It’s something to do with winter, cold nights and frosty mornings, slow roasting and baking whilst sipping a glass of wine.

Differing from soft-stemmed herbs such as parsley, coriander and basil (from which the entire plant is edible), woody herbs include the much-loved rosemary, sage, lavender, oregano and thyme.

As the name suggests, the stems of woody herbs are hard, fibrous and often inedible (think rosemary). As a general rule, they’re better in cooked dishes, finely chopped, bruised in a mortar and pestle, fried until crispy (think sage. JUST DO IT) or infused into oil.

juiced aerial2

The robust nature of woody herbs makes them wonderful for savoury applications such as a classic meat stuffing or slow cooked meal. However, they’re also delicious in Mediterranean-inspired desserts when combined with delicately sweet ingredients such as citrus fruit, nuts, stone fruit and glossy olive oil. To me, it’s a little bit like the flavour profile of a cheese board in the semblance of a traditional dessert. Sweet with savoury notes. Perfect for those of us with dwindling sweet tooths.

Like my recent recipe for lemon thyme ice cream sandwiches, this cake offers beautifully herbal, woody and savoury notes alongside the sweetness of citrus and olive oil. It’s perfect when eaten with coffee and a big dollop of double cream.


Olive Oil, Rosemary and Citrus Cake

Adapted from this recipe by Michael Chiarello at Food Network

  • 2 cups plain flour (I used gluten-free)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground anise (Spanish anise seed, not star anise. Substitute fennel seeds)
  • 1 tbsp mixed orange and lemon zest, finely grated*
  • 1 cup mixed orange and lemon juice*
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (315ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (eg. Cointreau, substitute brandy)

*I used 2 medium oranges and 1 small lemon to extract 1 cup of juice.

To serve:

  • 4 tbsp citrus marmalade, preferably without peel
  • icing sugar, optional
  • fresh rosemary sprigs and/or edible flowers

Grease and line a 24cm spring-form cake pan, then set aside. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).

In a nonreactive saucepan, reduce the citrus juice over medium heat to 1/4 cup. Add the salt, mix well and allow to cool.

Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add the milk, sugar, liqueur, olive oil, reduced (and cooled) citrus juice, zest, ground anise and half of the fresh rosemary (the other tsp will be used for glazing the cake). Mix well.


Sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix until you achieve a smooth, even batter.

Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is risen and golden (a skewer inserted into the centre should have only a few moist crumbs attached. Cover the cake with foil three-quarters of the way through cooking if it is browning too quickly. The cake will crack, it’s pretty much inedible so don’t worry!).

Place the cake onto a wire rack. While the cake is still warm, heat the marmalade until runny and incorporate the leftover chopped rosemary.Gently pour over the cake, using a spoon to smooth out any clumps. Allow to cool completely, then turn out onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar and top with rosemary sprigs.

lokisniff cut

curing olives, part three. dressings

jarbestDespite some personal disbelief, today marks the tenth week since my first batch of olives entered their jars of salty brine. Ten weeks of suspended hope, of weekly brine changes, of fleeting inspections and occasional puckered faces.

I’m glad to announce, whilst inspecting five large jars of marinated olives, that’s it’s all come to an end. A productive, successful and delicious end that’s made the entire process seem worthwhile.

twobowlsliketwobowlsIn hindsight, I’ve largely enjoyed curing my own olives. Everything from boiling (multiple) pots of steaming brine to watching crimson-streaked water swirl down the drain.

Yes, admittedly there have been disappointing moments, frustrating times and slack jaws over the endless mounds of sea salt I’ve used (about two kilos in the past ten weeks). However, whilst eating a soft, sweet olive marinated in fennel, chilli and orange… I’d say that I no longer care.

citrusthymeIn my initial Curing Olives post, I stated that black olives should take around 2-3 weeks to cure, with green olives taking a ‘lengthy’ 4-8 weeks to lose their high level of bitter astringency. Signs of the error in this estimation were obvious by the time of my second olive post, four weeks later.

Let me give a revised estimation: it took around 7-8 weeks for my batch of black olives to reach a level of soft, sweet edibility, whereas the green olives… uh, they took the entire ten weeks to soften and taste edible. Yes, ten weeks. But let me remind you: it’s entirely worth it.

orangefennel2detaillikeI’ve included four variations for dressing olives in the text below (uh, I got a little overexcited). All specify ‘brined then soaked olives‘, which simply means that you’ll need to soak your olives in cool, fresh water for about two hours to release some of the salty brine prior to dressing them. Don’t skip this step. If you do, you’ll end up with beautifully dressed but overpoweringly salty olives.

Taste one during the soaking process: if it’s soft and just slightly salted, you’re ready to dress the batch in whatever flavours you desire. If the ‘salt level’ continues to exceed what’s tolerable, keep soaking the olives as required (if you’ve started the process late at night, place your soaking olives in the refrigerator so that the water doesn’t become tepid overnight).

corseedsmontOne note when it comes to marinating olives: the longer you leave them, the better they’ll taste. In general, I’d recommend storing the well-sealed jars in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks prior to serving the olives… however, if you can’t bear the wait, there’s a simple trick to getting the most out of any of the marinades below.

*For accelerated flavour: in a small pan, lightly warm the olive oil with the aromatics (herbs, spices, garlic) until fragrant. Allow the oil to cool, then pour it over your olives. Leave for at least 2 hours, mixing well, prior to serving.

Once opened, all of these olives will keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.

Got all of that? Okay, now for the fun (recipe) part:

lemoncorianderRecipe 1: Lemon and coriander olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 tsp (about 7g) coriander seeds, toasted
  • 4-5 long strips of lemon rind
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Crush the coriander seeds lightly in a mortar and pestle. Place them into a medium bowl with the olives and lemon rind. Squeeze over the lemon juice, then top up with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle over some salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour the mixture into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Replace the lid tightly, then invert (turn the jar upside down) to ensure that all of the ingredients are well mixed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.


orangefennelRecipe 2: Orange and fennel olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 bay leaf (dried is fine), torn into two
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4-5 long strips of orange rind
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, dried herbs and orange rind. Pour over some extra virgin olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

thymepot olivesdoneRecipe 3: Herb and garlic olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) mixed olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 1 small handful mixed fresh herbs, leaves picked (I used rosemary, oregano and thyme)
  • 2-3 long strips of lemon rind
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, herbs and lemon rind. Squeeze over the lemon juice, then add some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

herbgarlictequilaRecipe 4: Tequila and lime olives

  • 1 cup (about 110g) green olives, brined then soaked (as above)
  • 2 fresh Serrano chillies, halved (seeds intact; substitute any other medium heat chilli)
  • a good splash of tequila
  • good splash of Cointreau (substitute another triple sec)
  • 4-5 long strips of orange rind
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • a small handful of coriander (cilantro), leaves picked
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced

Place the olives into a medium bowl with the garlic, orange rind and chillies. Pour over the lime juice, booze and some extra virgin olive oil. Add the fresh coriander and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then mix well.

Pour into a sterilised medium jar, then top up with olive oil so that the mixture is fully submerged. Seal tightly, then invert to ensure that the olive oil is well distributed. Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.

jarsbetterJust a few extra things:

  • For those of you who have been following the journey of my beautiful friend Kendall, her latest blog post can be found here. She and Brett have very much valued your thoughts, prayers and love… despite geographical and physical boundaries, it means a lot. Things aren’t getting any easier for Kendall at present, so please keep it coming (thanks so much, blogging family!).
  • If you’re wondering why my pictures look different in this post, it’s because Aaron and I have been experimenting with our friend Paul’s DSLR (Canon EOS 50D) over the past few days. I’m loving it. Even accidental photos (e.g. my foot, whilst adjusting the manual focus!) look good!
  • Aaron and I are currently researching Canon DSLR’s for our own investment… we love macro photography and would mostly be using it for food photography (me), nature (Aaron) and travel (Aaron and I). Any tips, good experiences, bad experiences? We would love to know what’s worked for people with similar interests.

making pesto

I’m sitting on the couch, wrapped tightly in a blanket as a storm brews in the grey sky outside. Raindrops splatter against muddied glass and I watch them fall, flickering in shadow to the ground below. My eyes are also flickering as I gaze over my hand-written recipe notes; mostly due to lack of sleep, a banging headache and post-jovial fatigue from the Saturday past.

Ah, Saturday. I had all good intentions of writing a huge post this weekend, full of recipes for chocolate and minted berry pavlova, Moroccan carrot salad, honey balsamic roast beetroot with goat’s cheese, cumin-spiced pumpkin dip and hazelnut praline. Don’t get me wrong, all were successfully created, tested and consumed with slices of herbed roast beef, roast potatoes and fresh Turkish bread.  The only problem is… well, we washed everything down with quality Pinot Noir and great conversation, and I was so engrossed in spending time with everyone that I couldn’t be bothered with photographs. Especially when I was dragged upstairs for a never-ending game of Cowboys and Aliens before being ‘pecked’ in the stairwell by a plastic bird on a stick.

Anyway, back to today’s post. Due to lack of photography I’ve decided to leave the above-mentioned recipes for another time when I can provide a complete, methodical post, but be assured, all recipes have been dutifully scribbled onto blotched paper with accurate ingredient lists for later use. Today’s post however, is for a staple in our household cuisine: the incredibly versatile, herbaceous and fragrant Pesto. Though there are arguably endless ways that you can create a tasty mix, my favourites in recent months have been 1) rocket, basil and pine nut, and 2) parsley, walnut and lemon zest (with or without chilli flakes). The latter was invented when I had a glut of parsley in the fridge, collected on a recent trip to the farmer’s market. It ended up being a delicious combination, bright green in colour and wonderful when drizzled over freshly-toasted, blackened ciabatta.

Below you’ll find recipes for both of my concoctions in quantities that suit my family, however if you want to change, substitute or add more of anything, then definitely do so! One of the benefits of pesto is that it’s an extremely forgiving condiment. You can substitute almost any soft, fragrant herb or greenery with different nuts, chilli, citrus, oil or roasted vegetables (like semi-dried tomatoes or roasted capsicum) and  it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have a jar of deliciousness in under ten minutes. Just be careful with the garlic, and maintain the rule that it’s always better to add less of a strong flavour from the outset rather than trying to frantically save a garlic-soaked pesto with leftover chopped spinach from the vegetable box.

Rocket and Basil Pesto

Makes approx one and a half cups

  • 2 cups tightly packed rocket leaves (arugula)
  • 2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (make sure you have a little more on hand, if required)
  • 3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp toasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • sea salt to taste
  • optional: lemon zest, to taste

Wash and thoroughly dry your rocket and basil leaves. Roughly chop and place in a food processor bowl. Add your garlic (I’d recommend adding one clove initially, as you can always add more later if required), olive oil, lemon zest (if using), 2 tbsp pine nuts and 1 tbsp cashews. Pulse until your oil begins to colour and ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Add in your Parmesan and pulse to combine – if the mixture seems a little thick for your liking, add more oil. Once at your desired consistency, taste and season with salt, if necessary.

Mix through extra whole nuts (I usually roughly chop my remaining cashews) then seal your mixture in a sterilised jar. If the solids in your mix are exposed at the top I’d recommend covering your pesto with a thin layer of fresh olive oil to preserve colour and freshness (any greenery exposed to the air with oxidise and darken). Your finished pesto will keep refrigerated for a couple of weeks, or if required, it can also be frozen (*see ‘notes’, below).

Parsley, Walnut and Lemon Pesto

Makes roughly one cup.

  • 2 cups tightly packed flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • sea salt

Wash and thoroughly dry your parsley leaves. Roughly chop and then place them in a food processor bowl with 1/2 cup walnuts, olive oil, garlic to taste, lemon juice and zest. Pulse until thoroughly combined, and if too thick for your liking, add more oil until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. Taste and season with salt, if necessary.

Add in your remaining 1/4 cup walnuts and stir to combine. Seal in a sterilised jar. As per basil pesto, mixture will keep in a sealed jar for a couple of weeks (*see ‘notes’ below for instructions on freezing).


  • ‘Pesto’ is an abbreviation of ‘pestello’ in Italian where the recipe first originated. It means ‘pestle’, hinting back to traditional mortar-and-pestle preparation of the condiment in old Italian kitchens. You can still prepare small-batch pesto in a mortar and pestle if desired. It brings a beautiful rustic quality to the dish, and is great for the biceps (actually, maybe I should stick with this method more regularly).
  • High quality oil is non-negotiable in pesto. I usually use extra virgin olive oil (my favourite oil at the moment is Australian Reserve Picual by Cobram Estate) but you can also substitute high quality macadamia oil, walnut oil or another oil of your choice that will compliment your chosen ingredients. I sometimes add a splash of walnut oil to the Parsley, Walnut and Lemon pesto which is deliciously fragrant.
  • Great herbs/leaves for substitution in pesto include: spinach, rocket (arugula), coriander (cilantro), parsley, nettle and the traditional basil.
  • If you’re using a stronger herb, such as coriander, use parsley as an extender to diffuse the flavour. It has a mellow, delicious flavour that will compliment rather than clashing.
  • Good quality cheese is also a must for flavoursome pesto. Great substitutes for parmesan include: asagio, romano.
  • Nut substitutes: my favourites are almonds (preferably blanched), walnuts, pine nuts and macadamias.
  • If you love the flavour of garlic but find pure cloves to be too strong, use garlic chives. They add a bright green, fragrant hint of garlic without being overpowering. You can also experiment with green shallots if desired.
  • *freezing: mixture can be frozen in ice-cube trays for up to three months. Just pop out a cube or two and defrost for spreading, or add straight to hot pasta as required.

My favourite uses for Pesto:

  • I stuff field mushrooms with a mixture of breadcrumbs, a generous amount of pesto, crispy bacon & semi-dried tomatoes. Oven bake for 15-20 minutes (add a mixture of parmesan & mozzarella to the top for the last 5-10 minutes) at 180 degrees C for a deliciously juicy addition to any meal.
  • Add it to grilled cheese sandwiches. My favourite is Rocket and Basil Pesto, mozzarella, sliced mushrooms, roma tomatoes and baby spinach on Turkish bread, grilled in the oven (or in a sandwich toaster, but I don’t have one) until the outside is crisp, the inside is molten and fragrant with basil oil and the mushrooms are tender. If I’m feeling lazy, homemade pesto with cheese is just as good!
  • Add two generous tablespoons of pesto to hot al dente pasta with some of the cooking water then mix til well coated. Add in some roasted cherry tomatoes for a delicious dinner.
  • Melt some pesto over the top of your roasted or steamed vegetables
  • Spread it on grilled ciabatta for a tasty bread entree, topped with roasted cherry tomatoes (or alternatively, like garlic bread, spread pesto between the half-cut slices in a baguette, wrap in foil and toast it in a hot oven).
  • Add it on top of your pizza. I particularly like pesto, roasted pumpkin, bacon and pine nuts with fresh goat’s feta and rocket.
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